The advocacy trap

Transnational activism and state power in China

Author: Stephen Noakes

The tale of transnational advocacy networks (TANs) is typically one of non-state actors reshaping world politics through the power of persuasion and principled ideas. This book is about the unromantic and often uncomfortable realities of transnational advocacy in a strong authoritarian state and rising world power. Drawing together case studies that span a range of issues, repertoires, and results of advocacy, it elaborates the constitutive role of the state in contemporary transnational activism. Because transnational networks are significant globally and domestically, the book speaks to students of comparative and international politics, bridging what is treated here as a superficial divide between the sub-fields. It discusses the campaigns around justice for Falun Gong and the strengthening of intellectual property rights in China. The book then traces the campaign around HIV/AIDS treatment, and the effort to abolish capital punishment in China. In the campaign for Tibetan independence, Chinese intransigence on the matter of national sovereignty for Tibet produced a split within the TAN. The book argues that that TANs can be effective when a legitimacy-seeking state deems the adoption of new policy positions in a given issue area to be critical for the preservation of its own moral authority and power monopoly. The key to working more effectively in China, therefore, is to recognize the source of Chinese Communist Party legitimacy and the connectedness of an issue to it. Those wishing to approach China recognize and take seriously the Chinese power to shape global issues and campaigns in support of them.

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‘The richness of the case studies would be well-paired with more direct quotes from the author’s ethnographic research. The book, nonetheless, will be of interest to scholars and students interested in the broader aspects of transnational civil society and how the nature of political systems, such as that of China may affect the efficacy of such networks, campaigns and related goals.
Journal of Chinese Political Science
December 2019

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